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Joseph Batty (1855-1918)

Joseph Batty was born on 1st January 1855 and was baptised on the 18th February at St. Saviours, Manchester. His father was a butcher, who was originally from Addingham in Yorkshire. His mother, was from Buxton in Derbyshire.

It seems that Joseph was an intelligent individual, who did not have any designs on becoming a butcher like his father. In 1871, when he was aged 16, he was still living at home with his father and step mother (his mother had died in 1862) but by the time of the net census, in 1881, he had left home and is described as a Law Student and  living at 11, Booth Street, Chorlton in rooms, in the company of other law students. He is clearly working hard to improve his station in life.

On 9th July 1885, Joseph married Florence Sophia Gordon, the daughter of Charles George Gordon, a flower and feathers salesman, who had been in business on his own account but which business had gone into liquidation in 1875. No doubt he would have considered that his daughter had found a good match in Joseph; an up and coming young lawyer.

Following the marriage the family soon expanded with the birth of their first child, Florence Gertrude (my grandmother) in 1885, then Dora May in 1888 and finally, Walter Gordon in 1890. By this time, Joseph had established his own thriving solicitors practice with an office in Manchester Road, Walkden a prestigious part of Manchester. By all accounts he had a thriving practice and was a very popular figure in the locality, a prominent figure in the local church and hosted many parties for his clients at his house, even entertaining the footballers of Manchester to champagne. In the Census for 1891, the family is living at number 88, Manchester Road, Barton upon Irwell, a well to do suburb of Manchester and they are employing a domestic servant. With three young children and seemingly plenty of entertaining to do, in support of her husband, Florence would certainly require some assistance.

Number 88 is an end of terrace Victorian property and still stands today.  

It seems that it was all a lie however and to fund his lifestyle he was embezzling his clients funds. The unexpected early death of one of his clients was his downfall. The Bolton Chronicle of 1 December 1891 reports that about a month previously, he had visited one of his clients, who was seriously ill and had prayed by his bed for him to live and uttered the words, "It can't can't be...". Joseph presumably panicked and rather than face the shame and undoubtedly his prosecution for his crimes, he decided to run, deserting his wife and his young family in the process. One can only imagine the hurt, distress and embarrassment his wife must have felt and the puzzlement of his two elder children as to why their father had suddenly disappeared from their lives. Walter Gordon would have been too young to understand.

Joseph absconded to America and to the best of my knowledge, his family never heard of him again, or knew what became of him. He would appear never to have been apprehended for his misdemeanours and never stood trial.

Life had to eventually return to some normality for Florence, she had three young children to support and raise. Fortunately, she seems to have been made of sterner stuff than her husband and with a supportive father and sister, appears to have been able to live a normal life. One imagines that she would have had to vacate her home as she would have no income to pay for its upkeep. Presumably, she soon moved in with her father, as that is whom she and her children are living with, at 32, Wycliffe Road, Urmston, in the 1901 census. Also in residence is her sister, Edna. Florence's occupation is Draper's Salesman. Her father is aged 71 but would appear to be still employed as a Wholesale, Flower & Feathers Salesman and so has recovered from his financial difficulties of some years earlier. Probably, both father and daughter are financially supporting the family, whilst her sister, who has no occupation stated, is keeping house and looking after the children.

By 1911, Florence is head of the Household, still working as a draper's Assistant, with her three children still at home but with the continued support of her sister, Edna. Her father, who is now aged 81, has moved out and is living with his son and his family in Sale, Cheshire. He lived to be 91.

Despite all the trauma and the hardship, Florence lived to age 96 and died in 1959. Of her three children, Florence Gertrude (my grandmother), married Arthur Coulthurst, had two children and died in 1970. Dora never married and died in 1975 and Walter married in 1915 and died in 1972.

So, what happened to Joseph?

For almost a century, as far as the family was concerned, that was the end of the story but with the advent of the internet and the digitisation of various records, I have been able to discover what became of Joseph very recently.

He sailed for America sometime in late November 1891, shortly after he had visited his sick client. No record has been found of his sea voyage to America but later documents indicate that he became a naturalised US citizen in 1891, ie, he must have applied immediately on disembarkation. There is no record of him until 1896, when he appears in the street directory for Brockton, Mass, where is is listed as living at, 200 Main, bds, 20 Southworth ct. He is described as a clerk.

However, he is not leading a settled life, his previous actions are troubling him and eventually send him insane, with at least one attempt to take his own life. Perhaps he becomes an alchohlic 

He next surfaces in an entry in the Onadaga County Penitentiary records for 1897, where he receives a 3 month sentence for public intoxication. He started his sentence on 30 December 1897. 

At some stage he meets with an individual by the name of Philip Sytz, who appears to become his benefactor. From 1898 to 1902 he is listed in a New York City directory as living at 215 Otisco, Syracuse, Occupation, clerk. In 1901 he is living at 344, S. Salina and the entry also states, bld.215 Otisco 'removed from the city'. This address, according to the New York census of 1900, is the address of Philip Sytz, his wife, Libbie and his son. Joseph, described as a Salesman is also resident with them.

In the New York State census of 1 June 1905 he is recorded as living with Philip Sytz and his wife. Joseph is described as a shoe salesman and a naturalised American of 14 years. (ie 1891)

On 29 June 1905, The Post Standard reports that Mr Joseph Batty, for the past seven years with F.E. Allen & Son and the "Hamilton Shoe Store", will be pleased to welcome his friends today in the Sorosis shoe department at D. McCarthy & Sons.

However, on 29 August of that year, Joseph is admitted to the Onadaga County Poor House with an unspecified illness. Philip Sytz is recorded as a friend on the admission record.

On December 16 1905, the Post Standard reports, "Joseph Batty, 60 years old, who has been living at the home of Phillip C. Sytz at No. 215 Otisco Street, was examined by Drs. C.E. Wright and K.F. Kaufmann yesterday and declared insane. A petition asking that he be committed to the St. Lawrence State Hospital for Insane at Ogdensburg will be presented to County Judge Ross today. Batty, on several occasions in the last few years has been an inmate of the County Home".

Then two weeks later on 28th December, the same newspaper report as follows:


Joseph Batty Raises Sash When Allowed in Corridor.


Demented Patient Placed in Cage to Prevent Bodily Injury


Otisco Street Resident to be Taken to the State Asylum at Ogdensberg Today.

Fearing that he might do himself bodily injury in a fit of insanity, Joseph Batty of Otisco Street, who ten days ago was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, was yesterday afternoon transferred to a cage of the Detention Hospital in Market Street. This precaution was taken as a result of an attempt made Tuesday evening by the patient, to escape through a third story window of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

About two weeks ago Mr. Batty was examined for insanity by Dr. F.J. Kauffman and Dr. Charles F. Wright but at the desire of his friends he was sent to the hospital temporarily for treatment. On Tuesday evening he was allowed to walk about the corridor and immediately raised the sash of a window on the third floor but was prevented from proceeding further by the attendant. He was taken in St. Joseph’s ambulance to the Detention Hospital at 5.30 o’Clock yesterday afternoon.

Tried to Commit Suicide

Mr. Batty first showed signs of a demented mind about a month ago when he attempted to commit suicide by taking morphine at his home. At present he is said to be very melancholy, imagining that he has committed some great crime. He stands for hours staring into space.

For several years, Mr Batty was a clerk at the shoe store of F.E Allen & Son at No. 334 South Salina Street. The papers for his commitment to the state insane asylum were signed yesterday and he will be taken to Ogdensburg today".

However, he must have been released by 1908 as in the directory for that year he is living with the Sytz family once again, at the same address at 344, South Salina.

Joseph is still living with the Sytz family as a boarder in the 1910 New York census but Philip Sytz is now age 75 and indeed he dies in 1912. 

In the Brockton, Mass. directory for 1913, Joseph has returned to Brockton where he lived before he moved to Syracuse in 1897 and is now living at 78, Main Rms. 90 High, Brockton. Presumably on his own. 

Around 21st December 1916 he was admitted to Foxborough State Hospital (another mental institution) as on 8th October 1918 he dies of a Coronory Occlusion (Heart Attack). and the record states that he has been resident there for 1 year, 10 months and 18 days. The record of his death records the full name of his wife Florence and both his parents and his year and place of birth. It seems that he never forgot his family but what a sentence he gave himself for his mis-deed.

He was buried on 10th October 1918 in an un-marked grave in Rock Hill Cemetery, Foxborough.

Linked toManchester, Lancashire, England,; Rock Hill Cemetery, Foxborough, Norfolk, Massachusets, USA; Dora May Batty; Florence Gertrude Batty; Joseph Batty, (Solicitor); Walter Gordon Batty; Florence Sophia Gordon

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